Like he did with Juan Antonio Bayona and ‘The Orphanage’, Guillermo Del Toro has found another promising young director he’s chosen to endorse the debut of in the shape of Andres Muschietti. Also like ‘The Orphange’, the film in question is another supernatural horror concerning a mother figure.
Two young girls disappear after a car crash in the woods only to be found five years later in an almost feral state. They are entrusted into the care of their uncle and his girlfriend (Jessica Chastain), and given a big creepy old house to live in. How they survived is unknown, but the older girl often talks of someone (or something) called ‘Mama’ who fostered them through their years in the forest.
While the film’s adult characters wonder about whether or not ‘Mama’ is a shared delusion of the girls’ or a real person, we the audience already know due to the director’s decision to show her in the pre-credits sequence.
Fortunately, this potential misstep doesn’t affect the rest of the film too much, as the new family is stalked by ‘Mama’ in their house.
Drawing inspiration from European and Asian horror cinema, there is barely a single original moment in ‘Mama’, and ‘Mama’ herself looks like a strange mix of a witch, the girl from ‘Ring’ and the lank-limbed creature from ‘[Rec]’. However, despite this familiarity, Andres Muschietti clearly knows how to handle a fright well.
Jessica Chastain also adds a classy touch to proceedings, and gets to appear totally differently from how we’ve become used to seeing her, as a punk band bass player with short black hair who’s forced to take up responsibilities as a surrogate mother.
The film is undeniable scary in the right places, and keeps you on the edge of your seat, even if you’re expecting the jumps.